Daniel 1:4
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

King James Bible
Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.

Darby Bible Translation
youths in whom was no blemish, and of goodly countenance, and skilful in all wisdom, and acquainted with knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the language of the Chaldeans.

World English Bible
youths in whom was no blemish, but well-favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and endowed with knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability to stand in the king's palace; and that he should teach them the learning and the language of the Chaldeans.

Young's Literal Translation
lads in whom there is no blemish, and of good appearance, and skilful in all wisdom, and possessing knowledge, and teaching thought, and who have ability to stand in the palace of the king, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

Daniel 1:4 Parallel
Commentary
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Children in whom was no blemish - The word rendered "children" in this place (ילדים yelâdı̂ym) is different from that which is rendered "children" in Job 1:3 - בנים bânnı̂ym). That word denotes merely that they were "sons," or "descendants," of Israel, without implying anything in regard to their age; the word here used would be appropriate only to those who were at an early period of life, and makes it certain that the king meant that those who were selected should be youths. Compare Genesis 4:23, where the word is rendered "a young man." It is sometimes, indeed, used to denote a son, without reference to age, and is then synonymous with בן bên, a "son." But it properly means "one born;" that is, "recently born;" a child, Genesis 21:8; Exodus 1:17; Exodus 2:3; and then one in early life. There can be no doubt that the monarch meant to designate youths. So the Vulgate, pueros, and the Greek, νεανισκους neaniskous, and so the Syriac. All these words would be applicable to those who were in early life, or to young men. Compare Introduction to Daniel, Section I. The word "blemish" refers to bodily defect or imperfection. The object was to select those who were most perfect in form, perhaps partly because it was supposed that beautiful youths would most grace the court, and partly because it was supposed that such would be likely to have the brightest intellectual endowments. It was regarded as essential to personal beauty to be without blemish, 2 Samuel 14:25 : "But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for beauty; from the sole of Iris foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him." Sol 4:7 : "thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." The word is sometimes used in a moral sense, to denote corruption of heart or life Deuteronomy 32:5; Job 11:15; Job 31:7, but that is not the meaning here.

But well-favored - Hebrew, "good of appearance;" that is, beautiful.

And skillful in all wisdom - Intelligent, wise - that is, in all that was esteemed wise in their own country. The object was to bring forward the most talented and intelligent, as well as the most beautiful, among the Hebrew captives.

And cunning in knowledge - In all that could be known. The distinction between the word here rendered "knowledge" (דעת da‛ath) and the word rendered "science" (מדע maddâ‛) is not apparent. Both come from the word ידע yâda‛ to "know," and would be applicable to any kind of knowledge. The word rendered "cunning" is also derived from the same root, and means "knowing," or "skilled in." We more commonly apply the word to a particular kind of knowledge, meaning artful, shrewd, astute, sly, crafty, designing. But this was not the meaning of the word when the translation of the Bible was made, and it is not employed in that sense in the Scriptures. It is always used in a good sense, meaning intelligent, skillful, experienced, well-instructed. Compare Genesis 25:27; Exodus 26:1; Exodus 28:15; Exodus 38:23; 1 Samuel 16:16; 1 Chronicles 25:7; Psalm 137:5; Isaiah 3:3.

And understanding science - That is, the sciences which prevailed among the Hebrews. They were not a nation distinguished for "science," in the sense in which that term is now commonly understood - embracing astronomy, chemistry, geology, mathematics, electricity, etc.; but their science extended chiefly to music, architecture, natural history, agriculture, morals, theology, war, and the knowledge of future events; in all which they occupied an honorable distinction among the nations. In many of these respects they were, doubtless, far in advance of the Chaldeans; and it was probably the purpose of the Chaldean monarch to avail himself of what they knew.

And such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace - Hebrew, "had strength" - כח kôach. Properly meaning, who had strength of body for the service which would be required of them in attending on the court. "A firm constitution of body is required for those protracted services of standing in the hall of the royal presence." - Grotius. The word "palace" here (היכל hêykâl) is commonly used to denote the temple (2 Kings 24:13; 2 Chronicles 3:17; Jeremiah 50:28; Haggai 2:15. Its proper and primitive signification, however, is a large and magnificent building - a palace - and it was given to the temple as the "palace" of Jehovah, the abode where he dwelt as king of his people.

And whom they might teach - That they might be better qualified for the duties to which they might be called. The purpose was, doubtless (see analysis), to bring forward their talent, that it might contribute to the splendor of the Chaldean court; but as they were, doubtless, ignorant to a great extent of the language of the Chaldeans, and as there were sciences in which the Chaldeans were supposed to excel, it seemed desirable that they should have all the advantage which could be delayed from a careful training under the best masters.

The learning - - ספר sêpher. literally, "writing" Isaiah 29:11-12. Gesenius supposes that this means the "writing" of the Chaldeans; or that they might be able to read the language of the Chaldeans. But it, doubtless, included "the knowledge" of what was written, as well as the ability "to read" what was written; that is, the purpose was to instruct them in the sciences which were understood among the Chaldeans. They were distinguished chiefly for such sciences as these:

(1) Astronomy. This science is commonly supposed to have had its orion on the plains of Babylon, and it was early carried there to as high a degree of perfection as it attained in any of the ancient nations. Their mild climate, and their employment as shepherds, leading them to pass much of their time at night under the open heavens, gave them the opportunity of observing the stars, and they amused themselves in marking their positions and their changes, and in mapping out the heavens in a variety of fanciful figures, now called constellations.

(2) Astrology. This was at first a branch of astronomy, or was almost identical with it, for the stars were studied principally to endeavor to ascertain what influence they exerted over the fates of men, and especially what might be predicted from their position, on the birth of an individual, as to his future life. Astrology was then deemed a science whose laws were to be ascertained in the same way as the laws of any other science; and the world has been slow to disabuse itself of the notion that the stars exert an influence over the fates of men. Even Lord Bacon held that it was a science to be "reformed," not wholly rejected.

(3) Magic; soothsaying; divination; or whatever would contribute to lay open the future, or disclose the secrets of the invisible world. Hence, they applied themselves to the interpretation of dreams; they made use of magical arts, probably employing, as magicians do, some of the ascertained results of science in producing optical illusions, impressing the common with the belief that they were familiar with the secrets of the invisible world; and hence, the name "Chaldean" and "magician" became almost synonymous terms Daniel 2:2; Daniel 4:7; Daniel 5:7.

(4) It is not improbable that they had made advances in other sciences, but of this we have little knowledge. They knew little of the true laws of astronomy, geology, cheministry, electricity, mathematics; and in these, and in kindred departments of science, they may be supposed to have been almost wholly ignorant.

And the tongue of the Chaldeans - In regard to the "Chaldeans," see the notes at Job 1:17; and the notes at Isaiah 23:13. The kingdom of Babylon was composed mainly of Chaldeans, and that kingdom was called "the realm of the Chaldeans" Daniel 9:1. Of that realm, or kingdom, Babylon was the capital. The origin of the Chaldeans has been a subject of great perplexity, on which there is still a considerable variety of opinions. According to Heeren, they came from the North; by Gesenius they are supposed to have come from the mountains of Kurdistan; and by Michaelis, from the steppes of Scythia. They seem to have been an extended race, and probably occupied the whole of the region adjacent to what became Babylonia. Heeren expresses his opinion as to their origin in the following language: "It cannot be doubted that, at some remote period, antecedent to the commencement of historical records. "one mighty race" possessed these vast plains, varying in character according to the country which they inhabited; in the deserts of Arabia, pursuing a nomad life; in Syria, applying themselves to agriculture, and taking up settled abodes; in Babylonia, erecting the most magnificent cities of ancient times; and in Phoenicia, opening the earliest ports, and constructing fleets, which secured to them the commerce of the known world."

There exists at the present time, in the vicinity of the Bahrein Islands, and along the Persian Gulf, in the neighborhood of the Astan River, an Arab tribe, of the name of the "Beni Khaled," who are probably the same people as the "Gens Chaldei" of Pliny, and doubtless the descendants of the ancient race of the Chaldeans. On the question when they became a kingdom, or realm, making Babylon their capital, see the notes at Isaiah 23:13. Compare, for an interesting discussion of the subject, "Forster's Historical Geography of Arabia," vol. i. pp. 49-56. The language of the Chaldeans, in which a considerable part of the book of Daniel is written (see the Introduction Section IV., III.), differed from the Hebrew, though it was a branch of the same Aramean family of languages. It was, indeed, very closely allied to the Hebrew, but was so different that those who were acquainted with only one of the two languages could not understand the other. Compare Nehemiah 8:8. Both were the offspring of the original Shemitish language. This original language may be properly reduced to three great branches:

continued...

Daniel 1:4 Parallel Commentaries

Library
Whether Curiosity Can be About Intellective Knowledge?
Objection 1: It would seem that curiosity cannot be about intellective knowledge. Because, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. ii, 6), there can be no mean and extremes in things which are essentially good. Now intellective knowledge is essentially good: because man's perfection would seem to consist in his intellect being reduced from potentiality to act, and this is done by the knowledge of truth. For Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) that "the good of the human soul is to be in accordance with reason,"
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Cross References
2 Samuel 14:25
Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him.

Isaiah 36:11
Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to Rabshakeh, "Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak with us in Judean in the hearing of the people who are on the wall."

Jeremiah 5:15
"Behold, I am bringing a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel," declares the LORD. "It is an enduring nation, It is an ancient nation, A nation whose language you do not know, Nor can you understand what they say.

Daniel 1:17
As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.

Daniel 2:2
Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king.

Daniel 2:4
Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: "O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation."

Daniel 3:8
For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews.

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